The Bible’s Viewpoint
Has Christianity Failed?
ABOUT a third of the earth’s population claim to be Christian. Yet, the world seems more politically divided and more violent than ever before. Does this mean that Christianity as Jesus taught it is somehow flawed? Or, rather, does the flaw exist in the way many people apply Christ’s teachings?
This article will examine what Christ actually taught and the example he set for his followers. It will also consider a common view among professed Christians, one that is actually in conflict with the true meaning of Christianity.
A Distorted Form of Christianity
Hundreds of years after Christ’s death, a distorted form of Christianity was made a favored religion in the Roman Empire. No longer unwelcome outsiders, members of this group of professed Christians soon found themselves at the center of the political and social mainstream of Roman society. Church leaders, such as Augustine, reacted to this change by teaching that the awaited Kingdom of God had now arrived. Such leaders taught that their newly acquired political and religious influence was the means of bringing about the will of God on earth. Thus the value of human effort in directing earth’s affairs was emphasized.
As a result, many have come to believe that a Christian has a role to play in the political fabric of society. To do that, most believe, a Christian must at times subordinate certain aspects of his beliefs to the will of the society in which he lives. For example, many people pay lip service to Christ’s teachings of love and peace, while at the same time supporting vicious wars. For the same reason, churches may encourage their followers to pray for the Kingdom of God but at the same time lend support to rulers who act oppressively.
This counterfeit form of Christianity is not the religion that Jesus established. Rather, it is a man-made version and is practiced by most professed Christians today. This version of Christianity has indeed failed, as evidenced by the widespread disregard for Bible principles in all of Christendom today.
What Did Jesus Actually Teach?
It may come as a surprise to some that Jesus actually said that his followers should be “no part of the world, just as [he was] no part of the world.” (John 17:15, 16) Why would Christ encourage his disciples to take such a stand? Jesus’ beloved disciple the apostle John provided an answer. He wrote: “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.”—1 John 5:19.
Hence, Christ’s teachings direct people, not to human entities, but to the heavenly Kingdom of God as the agency that will create a just and righteous world here on earth. (Matthew 6:10) Jesus himself did not show the slightest inclination to interfere with the social structure of his day. He rejected political office outright. (John 6:15) He also rejected violence as a way of settling disputes. (Matthew 26:50-53; John 18:36) Jesus left behind no constitution or canon of civil laws. He took no political stand on the issues of his day. For instance, he did not become an activist for the rights of slaves, nor did he involve himself in the struggle of the Jewish people against Rome.
This does not mean, however, that Jesus was unconcerned about people and their problems. Jesus taught a great deal about an individual’s responsibility toward his fellow man. He encouraged honesty in the payment of taxes and stressed the need to be submissive to those in legitimate positions of authority. (Matthew 22:17-21) He taught how to show an active interest in the welfare of those in need. He also taught how to show respect for the dignity of others and how to be empathetic, forgiving, and merciful. (Matthew, chapters 5-7) It is a well-known fact that the focus of Christ’s teachings is love of God and of neighbor.—Mark 12:30, 31.
True Christianity Today
How, then, would a true follower of Christ conduct himself? He would do as Jesus did. While faithfully obeying the laws of the land, he would remain strictly neutral regarding political affairs. (John 12:47, 48) He would not compromise Christian principles, even when under great pressure. (1 Peter 2:21-23) At the same time, he could not be just a disinterested observer. A true Christian would take an active interest in the welfare of those around him, as Jesus did. (Mark 6:34) He would also expend himself in helping others to lead happier lives by helping them understand and live by Christ’s teachings.—John 13:17.
Accordingly, Jehovah’s Witnesses today strive to imitate Christ in their relationship with the world around them. While being peaceful law-abiding citizens, they are no part of the world. As Jesus did, they refuse to be part of the violence and political wrangling so common today. Their hope is firmly fixed on the Kingdom of God as the solution to the problems facing the world. True Christianity results in a happier life and harmony among its members. (John 13:34, 35) It certainly has not failed.
HAVE YOU WONDERED?
▪ Should Christians involve themselves in politics?—John 6:15.
▪ Did Christ recommend violence as a way to settle disputes?—Matthew 26:50-53.
▪ What is the identifying mark of true Christians?—John 13:34, 35.
[Picture Credit Line on page 18]
EL COMERCIO, Quito, Ecuador